Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) COVID-19 Task Force Co-Chairs Dr. Michael Darville and Dr. Melissa Evans said yesterday they were “deeply alarmed” by Minister of Health Renward Wells’ indifference over the revelation that 21,000 travelers to The Bahamas failed to comply with mandatory fifth-day rapid antigen COVID testing protocols.
As of November 1, individuals arriving in The Bahamas — including visitors who are staying for more than five days and returning citizens and residents — are required to have a negative RT-PCR test within five days of arrival, must obtain a travel health visa and undergo a rapid antigen test five days after arrival. Any individual who tests positive on the antigen test is required to take a follow-up RT-PCR test.
Ministry of Health Senior House Officer Dr. Cherita Moxey said on Friday that since November, 46 percent of individuals who were supposed to take the rapid antigen test did not take it.
On Tuesday, the minister of health maintained that the travel protocols are working and do not need to be re-evaluated.
Responding to Wells’ comments, Darville and Evans said, “While he admits that nearly half of the travelers who were required to take the test failed to do so, he still claims that the health protocols are working. This makes no sense.”
They noted social media reports from travelers who detailed their frustration in trying to take the required test but “finding that the testing centers are closed or empty”.
Darville and Evans described the situation as “a huge failure” on the part of the government.
“Rather than defend it, the responsible thing to do would be to admit the incompetence underway and fix it,” they said.
They asked, “How bad does it have to get before he takes action? Have the members of this government become so detached from reality that they embrace obvious failure as a mark of success?”
It was revealed weeks after the new testing policy took effect that the antigen tests were not being conducted on a number of Family Islands. When questioned on the matter multiple times, Wells said he was not aware of the fact, even though Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar had confirmed it.
On Friday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said roughly 26,000 antigen tests have come back negative since November.
She said of the people who tested, 113, or 0.16 percent of them, were positive.